Annie Ridout transformed her copywriting career and started her own site, The Early Hour, after having her first baby (Joni). She tells us how it all began at 5am...
Tell us about your family
I live with my husband Rich and we have one daughter, Joni Rose Moon. She’s two in June.
How and why did you start The Early Hour?
When Joni was young, I’d often be up at 4 or 5am; feeding her and reading shitty articles that didn’t make me feel good. So I decided to start an online culture and lifestyle magazine with inspiring interviews and articles to give early risers (parents, commuters, insomniacs, florists, teachers, bakers, menopausal women) something stimulating to read first thing. The Early Hour launched in September, and articles are published daily at 5am.
It was important to me that the content could appeal to both women and men, as I was bored with the idea that becoming a parent divides us. Yes, women and men are different – but when it comes to parenting and work, there is so much crossover. Women work. Men parent. And vice versa. Also, I wanted to cover ethical issues, mental health, disability and less conventional family set-ups – as people in these situations aren’t always given a platform.
It can be hard to juggle a career and family life. What, if anything, do you feel you've sacrificed by choosing your current lifestyle?
It is hard, and I do sometimes feel off balance but I make sure that no aspect of my life is sacrificed by making continual adjustments. For instance, there was a period when I wasn’t seeing enough of my friends so I now make sure I go out one evening a week. Also, exercise is important to me so I get up at 5.50am to go for a run and do pilates before Rich leaves for work. I think it’s about working out what makes you feel good and finding a way to fit it into your life.
The transition from working as a full time copywriter in Farringdon to being at home full time with a baby was difficult in some ways, as it meant less money, less freedom and less intellectual stimulation. But that was my choice. And now – through The Early Hour and writing freelance articles – I’m enjoying earning money and feeling connected to the adult world again. Of course, ‘work’ sometimes seeps into ‘life’ and I do feel guilty tapping away on my phone when I’m with Joni. But we spend lots of time in the park and roaming the streets, too.
It would be nice to go on more dates with Rich but we’re a bit crap at making this happen so we’ve just booked a weekend away in Berlin for his birthday (our first proper trip without Joni). I can’t wait. But we actually love our evenings in – I get in the bath with Joni then we all read books together on our bed. Rich and I both feel a lot more productive since having a baby so we often spend evenings working. The priorities have definitely shifted, from ‘have as much fun as possible’ to ‘achieve as much as possible’. But I think we’re happier.
What's your top tip for mums on maternity leave?
Joni was born in June and I loved walking around parks with her, stopping for coffees, meeting up with my mum, sister or friends I’d made through NCT. But I put lots of pressure on myself to go to groups and play centres. My top tip would be: do whatever feels right for you. Don’t worry about ‘socialising’ your baby – this will come later. They barely acknowledge other children until they’re well over a year old. That said – if you’re feeling lonely, a trip to a local group could really help. And remember: everyone’s in the same boat – feeling intimidated and like it’s the first day of school all over again.
The Early Hour is the first Instagram we see every morning. Who do you look forward to 'seeing' each day on social media?
There are so many amazing accounts. But in brief, I love…@oh_merde and @nor_folk for lifestyle. @peckham_mamma and @papa_pukka for the jokes. @simonbajada for the food and scenery. @meringuegirls for the girly stuff. And my lovely friend @mattbucknall for the best photos on the whole of Instagram.
Are there any other blogs/sites/publications you're dying to write for?
I recently wrote an article for the Guardian, which is the newspaper I grew up with – so that’s a big box ticked. I’m also in talks with The Pool, hopefully that will lead to something. Other than that: anyone willing to pay. I’d love to be invited on to Woman’s Hour and (further down the line!) Desert Island Discs.
Make us feel better about ourselves. What's your biggest mum fail?
We went to Whitstable for the Easter weekend. I was doing a wee upstairs, Rich was reading downstairs – and we both thought the other was watching Joni. I heard her climbing the stairs and thought it wasn’t a good idea but let it happen. She got to the top of a really long flight of uncarpeted stairs and slipped. I screamed, Rich ran round, threw his glass of wine up the staircase and caught her mid-air. A split second later, and she’d have crashed onto the floor. When I got downstairs, Rich was grey in the face. Fortunately, Joni was fine – she hit her cheek on the first tumble and had a little bruise but no head injuries. We felt very bad about that.
Are there any other mums out there who inspire you?
I love Steph Douglas from Don’t Buy Her Flowers for her honesty about all things motherhood. She writes a great blog. Also Suzy Ashworth for her positivity and empowering messages. And any mum who travels with their kids I’m in awe of – I’d love to do it one day, but have to persuade Rich first! And of course my own mum is massively inspiring; she is as close to perfect as a mum could be.
Where do you hang out with the family?
We spend every Friday night – me, Rich and Joni – at our local: The Castle, in Walthamstow. We get on well with the owners Adam and Natalie, and they have a sweet little daughter Olive, who Joni plays with. Eat17, also in Walthamstow, is great for brunch – and their sister branch in Hackney for dinner – and we recently discovered My Neighbours the Dumplings in Clapton who do delicious dim sum. Lastly, The Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green is great for kids.
What's next for The Early Hour?
I woke up the other day with an email from Arianna Huffington in my inbox. That was a big moment. I’d like to interview more women at the top of their game – so far, I’ve found it much easier getting men to agree. And other than that, I’ll continue to work hard creating content that (I hope) people enjoy reading. Whatever happens, I want to be telling people’s stories and giving a platform to people who might not otherwise have one. So get in touch if you’d like to be featured…
On Twitter: @theearlyhour
On Instagram: @the_early_hour
On Facebook: theearlyhour